One of the most decorated Monster Jam trucks in the world will be represented in the inaugural Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway… and we have Keelan Harvick to thank for it. Keelan wanted to give his dad, Kevin, the most awesome Father’s Day gift ever, so the eight-year-old organized a surprise for his dad – a Grave Digger paint scheme on Kevin’s No. 4 Ford Mustang. It turns out the iconic paint scheme featured on the 12,000-pound, larger-than-life truck that rides on enormous 66-inch BKT tires transfers well to a sleek and fast Stewart-Haas Racing-built Ford Mustang. The No. 4 Monster Jam/Grave Digger Ford Mustang is sure to turn heads this Father’s Day weekend – in the stands and on the track as drivers do a double-take when they see Grave Digger looming large in their rearview mirror.
So how does a Monster Jam truck – and not just any Monster Jam truck, but the Monster Jam truck of Monster Jam trucks – rank as a cool Father’s Day gift, and a surprise Father’s Day gift from your son, Keelan?
“It’s THE monster truck. Loud noises, big engines, big wheels, big tires, fast racecars, and to have that be a surprise, it’s surprising to me because of the fact that it’s with Grave Digger and everything, the history, that goes with that truck. But it doesn’t surprise me that it’s something related to a car and tying it in to what we do. This one caught me off guard, though, because I had no idea that any of this was happening and, to have my 8-year-old son be able to pull that off and know more about it than I do makes me feel like I’m a little bit left out. So we’re going to have to talk to somebody.”
How many times have you been to Monster Jam and what is it about those events that resonates with you and Keelan?
“We have been to Monster Jam. We went to Charlotte. We went to Atlanta several years ago. We’ve been to a few of them. For Keelan and I, racing is a legacy, you pass it on from one generation to the next. And the same thing has happened with Grave Digger and the drivers of that truck. What we do, you see generations of families that have had their fathers, their sons and their sons move on through the ranks of racing. It’s something that you grow up around and are a part of and you learn to love the sport. And when you’re around it, you understand it’s a family sport and, for me, that’s the best part of it – that it’s something we can do together.”
When Dennis Anderson, the patriarch of Grave Digger, was behind the wheel of his Monster Jam truck, he was crushing cars. That doesn’t typically work too well in a stock car. How are you going to live up to Grave Digger’s legacy?
“You’ve got to set yourself apart from everybody else, right? The best way to do that for us is to run faster than everybody else, so hopefully we can have this No. 4 Monster Jam/Grave Digger Ford Mustang doing what it’s supposed to do and running fast – scare them right off the track. They’re all going to be jealous because I get to drive Grave Digger’s car.”
You last competed at Nashville in 2010 during a NASCAR Xfinity Series race. What are your expectations when you roll back in there in 2021?
“I didn’t ever go to Nashville without the expectation of winning. It was one of our best racetracks throughout the years and we’ve always had good success there and always enjoyed the racetrack itself. I’m looking forward to Cup finally going there. I know that facility was built to entertain having a Cup date and I can’t believe it’s taken this long because Nashville is such a great area for us as a sport. I’m excited to be there because we have just a ton of fans. Obviously, it’s the home of Hunt Brothers Pizza, as well. So there’s just a lot of good things that are happening when we go back to Nashville.”
It’s been 10 years since NASCAR last competed at Nashville Superspeedway, and it was an Xfinity Series race on July 23, 2011 that was won by Carl Edwards. The NASCAR Cup Series has never competed on the 1.333-mile oval, but Cup teams tested there extensively back in the day when it was fashionable to race on Sunday, test somewhere on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then fly to the next Cup race on Thursday. Harvick, now in his 21st year of Cup Series competition, has logged many laps in a Cup car at Nashville Superspeedway despite the track never hosting a Cup race until this Sunday’s inaugural Ally 400.
Harvick has, however, raced at Nashville Superspeedway and performed incredibly well. In four career Xfinity Series starts at the track, Harvick has two wins – April 15, 2006 and April 3, 2010. He finished third on June 10, 2006 and recorded his worst finish, seventh, in his first Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on April 14, 2001. It all gave Harvick an average finish of third. He also had a lap completion rate of 100 percent, running all 900 laps available to him, and he led 123 of those laps.
Harvick also made one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Nashville Superspeedway. It was on April 2, 2010 when he finished second to Kyle Busch.